WWII by entities: Persons, Places and Events

Posted on 24/03/2022 by Peter Tessel

Last week we organized the first meetup in the context of the group 'Using Knowledge Graphs in Cultural Heritage'. Jos Bezemer, senior interaction designer at DOOR/IN10, Lizzy Jongma, ICT project lead at Oorlogsbronnen and Michiel Hildebrand, knowledge scientist at Spinque presented how they used the Oorlogsbronnen Knowledge Graph while creating the new oorlogsbronnen.nl together.

Michiel presented how the Oorlogsbronnen Knowledge Graph has enabled oorlogsbronnen.nl to develop from a traditional collection portal to a platform for data-driven stories. By defining the persons, places, and events that are related to collection objects as 'things' instead of 'strings', it becomes possible to bring these entities to the forefront. To view them from a new perspective, to present them independently and to make them separately accessible. These entities can be further enriched by deriving implicit information that is often contained in their relationship with collection objects: for example a camp card implies that a person was imprisoned, a transport list that s/he was transported etc. And finally the relations between entities allow us to take on different perspectives: from a person to the city s/he lived in to a bombardment the city endured etc.

Next Lizzy explained how she actually creates the Oorlogsbronnen Knowledge Graph. How she converts data from member organizations to linked open data and, most importantly, how she matches this data to everything else that they already have. Or concretely how she links this data to the extensive WWII thesaurus Oorlogsbronnen has built over the years. This thesaurus contains descriptions about persons, places and events; basically the knowledge that Lizzy and her colleagues have added to the entities that connect the collection objects of the different organizations in the network. By consistently linking new data to the WWII thesaurus, Lizzy is able to fill black holes, to find gems and to uncover the stories hidden in the sources.

Finally Jos told how he and his colleagues managed to present the massive amount of data in the Oorlogsbronnen Knowledge Graph in a user-friendly way. They set out to tell the stories of WWII in the Netherlands on the basis of entities and to cast collection objects in a supporting role. They just had to figure out how to do this using a Knowledge Graph. Oorlogsbronnen, Spinque and DOOR/IN10 got together to work on the design for a week. While Lizzy and her colleagues provided context to the domain, Spinque created search strategies to provide relevant data and Jos and his colleagues started to grasp how they could harness the knowledge graph. After much experimentation, sketching and defining, rules and regulations started to emerge that allowed Jos to design the components and flow that would tell the stories contained in the Oorlogsbronnen Knowledge Graph.

After the presentations the discussion continued in various breakout rooms and the participants were able to pose all their remaining questions. We look back with satisfaction on this first meetup and look forward to the follow-up. If you would like to discuss your project in which you are 'Using Knowledge Graphs in Cultural Heritage', let us know!